February 5, 2019
From SwimSwam - Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
I discovered a simple exercise that can help us—and our kids—with our mental well-being and happiness. Our kids work hard every day to improve technique, speed and endurance. Here’s an idea to help them work on a positive outlook. So much of swimming is between the ears, so why not share this positive psychology exercise with your children and try it yourself, too?
I learned about this simple practice called the “What-Went-Well Exercise” or “Three Blessings” in a book called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. According to author Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., “We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.”
Think about how this concept plays into swimming. Kids who focus on what might go wrong may tense up and not swim well. They can add time because of their negative self-talk and poor attitude. That doesn’t usually translate to happy parents, either. If we can relax and enjoy the moment, our kids may be more relaxed, too. Kids often pick up on how we’re feeling. For example, when we get anxious, the anxiety can spread like wildfire.
Try this 10-minute exercise and share it with your kids, too:
“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well,” Seligman wrote. “You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance. (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).
“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”
“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”